Notes on 79

No Wonder They’re Behind Department. The political opposition has given itself a deadline for rounding up the 79 signatures. "That [Tuesday] is also our target," Rep. Ronaldo Zamora told reporters. At this point (the weekend before a possibly crucial vote in the Committee on Justice), the pro-impeachment camp is behind in the numbers game, with almost all of their hopes pinned on the conjugal partnership of Sen. Manuel and Rep. Cynthia Villar. ("Senator Villar is playing for higher stakes," Zamora noted impishly.)

Here’s one possible reason why, a month after the impeachment complaints were referred to the committee, the opposition is still playing catch up. From an ANC interview with "opposition lawyer" Harry Roque:

Without the 79, it’s over, and that’s why in fact, I have allowed the congressmen to take the lead in this initiative. I have asked the legal to take a backseat because what we are witnessing now is a political play more than a legal play.

I don’t know which is more revealing: the fact that Roque has realized that impeachment is a political process only belatedly, or that, apparently ("I have allowed the congressmen to take the lead"), he calls the shots.

Stretching It Too Thin Department.  In the same ABS-CBN story, the spokesman of the President’s impeachment team, lawyer Romulo Makalintal, admitted that if the opposition gained79 signatures, it "opens the possibility" that the President would in fact be impeached. And then he added:

"The rules state that they should have 79 votes at the time of filing. A creeping impeachment does not apply. Even with 79 votes, it could still be killed in the House plenary," Macalintal said.

No, it can’t. The constitutional provisions on impeachment actually provide for the tyranny of the minority (to, ah, coin a phrase). Thus, paragraph 3 of Section 3 of Article XI declares:

A vote of at least one-third of all the Members of the House shall be necessary either to affirm a favorable resolution with the Articles of Impeachment of the Committee, or override its contrary resolution.

Thus, with 79 votes, even an anti-impeachment decision at the committee level can be overturned at the plenary.



Filed under Readings in Politics

2 responses to “Notes on 79

  1. John,

    This is not the first time that Atty. Makalintal used that argument. As an intervenor in the Francisco case, he raised the same point that the 1/3 rule in the charter applies to solons as complainants and not as endorsers.

    He finds legal support from Commissioner Regalado Maambong, the Constitutional Commissioner who was active in the drafting of the impeachment provisions. He was also one of the amicus curia tapped by the SC in the Francisco case.

    However, like you, I disagree with his argument and I wholly agree with the point you raised.

    For one, this provision puts to rest Makalintal’s argument that the 1/3 rule should apply only to solons who are complainants. Whether a solon is an endorser or a complainant will no longer have any relevance once the opposition hits 79 because that is the minimum requirement for the House to pass the buck to the Senate.

    Thus, you have three discretionary points where the 79 votes are relevant. First, when 79 solons file the complaint; Second, when 79 endorsers (although Makalintal and Maambong may contest this) are secured before the Justice Committee rules on the impeachment complaint; and Third, when the opposition secures 79 votes in the plenary to overturn a Justice Committee resolution dismissing the impeachment complaint.

    The Third 79 is the final reckoning. The battle does not end with the resolution of the Justice Committee. The battle is only shifted from the Committee to the full House. And the opposition has 10 days from submission by the Justice Committee to the House to continue soliciting the 79 votes.

    Two things the opposition has to watch out for:

    One, the opposition must see to it that the Justice Committee resolution dismising the impeachment complaint be forwarded to the House for a vote. Interestingly, this was not done in the Davide impeachment. The House Justice Committee did not submit their resolution dismissing the first Davide impeachment complaint to the House for a vote. This was keenly observed by the Supreme Court. Without it, the final 79 may never occur.

    And two, the opposition must see to it that Speaker Joe de V must not do a Manny Villar prayerful resolution affirming the Justice Committee resolution.

    So, tell these youthful solons who Randy David praised to high heavens to do their job seriously, even in the absence of media glare.

  2. Oh and I forgot to mention that the argument raised by Atty. Makalintal in the Francisco case was specifically ignored by the Supreme Court saying that, among others, that is not the main crux of the Davide controversy. Thus, the issue of the creeping 79 remains unsettled.

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